As many of you know, I held out against the Facebook invasion for a long time. I told the tale of my conversion to the posting side in my blog post Social Anxiety. You can view that post at http://www.terrilabonte.com/2019/02/social-anxiety/. Now that I’ve been socially anxious for over a year, I thought I’d revisit my decision.
I almost put myself in Facebook time-out a little while back. The drama was beginning to unnerve me.
I belong to a few different groups on Facebook. For the most part, I find that these groups are helpful, positive, and supportive. Now and again, a skirmish breaks out. It can be amusing to watch it play out… when the skirmish involves people who are strangers to me. When it involves people I know, it feels too personal and cringeworthy. It makes me want to crawl back into my Luddite hole and cover myself with a blanket. Or maybe just feed my phone down the garbage disposal. It upsets me a lot.
I used to think I could try to raise a point that would help the feuding parties bridge their differences and make peace. Now, I just feel powerless to stop the madness. I’m sad that the madness may infect my reasonably sane circle of close friends and destroy the carefully nurtured harmony in my world. People tell me to “just keep scrolling” if a certain thread bothers me. I know that is the best advice, but I find it difficult to implement. It is sort of like telling an alcoholic that she can easily sit in a bar if she just doesn’t order a drink. Yes, it is possible, but it ain’t easy. I am a curious person and seem to be drawn to these dramas. I freely admit that this curiosity is based on a desire to be “in the know” on the gossip front. It is an extremely unattractive side to my personality and I work hard to beat it down. Facebook doesn’t facilitate that self-improvement effort, at least not without some creativity on my part.
I’ve been trying to channel my angst about posts that feed the darker side of the online society into more positive avenues. I try to forge strategies to force the conversation into a more productive place. That was always my goal, but I found that responding directly to an inflammatory post wasn’t the way to accomplish it. “Distraction” is my new method. Instead of squirting Coleman fuel on a fire that is already out of control in hopes of drowning it, I think it is better to leave the building to burn down and set up housekeeping in a more pleasant place. For instance, a twister swirled into a group recently over a sensitive, polarizing matter. Posters were passionate about their opinions. There was little in the way of shared interests. It seemed that the opposite positions were mutually exclusive. In short, I don’t think there was ever going to be any consensus of opinion.
There were folks who wrote reasonable, rational posts to try to bridge the gaps in understanding and position. These posters encouraged those who were so angry and devastated to embrace the (hopefully) shared interest of community harmony. I admired those posters. Unfortunately, several attempts to let cooler heads prevail resulted in those cooler heads being knocked from their shoulders. Just when it seemed that the emotional temperature was decreasing, there would be another belligerent, righteously indignant post that would start the whole argument over again.
I don’t say which camp was right and which camp was wrong. In fact, I am not even saying that taking to Facebook to have this argument was wrong (although I probably would say that, if pressed) because I know I tend to be too passive and non-confrontational. What I am saying is that, right or wrong, these social media land mines upset me a lot. It is just in my DNA to avoid arguments and withdraw when tempers flare. It hurt my heart that there were real people at the center of these arguments, the targets of some pretty pointed ugliness at times. After a few days of this running Facebook argument, I thought seriously about leaving the group or even getting off Facebook altogether.
I decided not to take either action because, all in all, I like Facebook. I am the cornball who loves the cute animal videos, the witty puns, the ridiculous quizzes that apparently send information about my weird personality to Russia on a regular basis, and the uplifting messages. I also like to see the pictures people post. It has been interesting connecting with some people from my past. As to the group that the argument hijacked for a few weeks, it provides very valuable information almost all the time.
Instead of giving up Facebook, leaving a group that I find generally helpful, or taking a side in a Facebook battle, I decided to feed new threads. I started posting my “Thankful Thursday” posts in that group, copying from my regular posts to friends. These posts list some of the things for which I am thankful and ask that others join me in thankfulness, in exchange for a virtual donut. Much as I did when I was working, I sometimes list a “strategic” thankful, with the specific intent to reinforce positiveness. I also wrote my blog post Nice Matters (http://www.terrilabonte.com/2019/07/nice-matters/) a week or two after the firestorm started and posted the link in the group. I saw a few other people taking similar actions, posting about friendship and unity. We didn’t make a big deal about any of it or allude at all to the controversy. We were specifically trying to not refer to the controversy. We just reminded FB groupies that our world is filled with wonderful people who do wonderful things.
When we stopped feeding the fire, the ashes started to cool. There is still the occasional flare. I suppose that is understandable, as people were very passionate about the issue and, in some ways, it was a very big issue. Some people do burn hotter than others. On the other hand, the conversation landscape is less scorched and I am not as upset. The key to managing my Facebook angst was not trying to extinguish the fire. It was to build a more flame-retardant house!
What are your experiences with social media controversies? How do you keep your equilibrium when a social media storm breaks out? Please share your experience by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have an angst-free day!